Maureen Cavanaugh led a life filled with eclectic passions that were satisfied through travel, exploration, and learning. She enriched others with her knowledge through teaching and brought modern-day relevance from antiquity to current affairs through her scholarly interpretations of texts and archeological discoveries. Maureen will also be remembered for her caring nature, warm personality, and generous spirit.
Maureen majored in Latin at Swarthmore College, where she won the Phi Beta Kappa Prize, and earned her M.A. (1977) and Ph.D. (1980) in Classics from Cornell University. In 1978-1979, Maureen attended the American School of Classical Studies as the James Rignall Wheeler Fellow, studying the inscriptions in Eleuisis and Athens on which her Ph.D. dissertation was based, and later published as a monograph entitled: Eleusis and Athens: Finance, Politics and Religion in the Second Half of the Fifth Century, B.C. (1996). The book remains one of the most important works on Attic law and finance in the fifth century today.
Professor Kevin Clinton, her advisor at Cornell, referencing Maureen’s monograph stated: “The result is a fundamental work of lasting value, essential for any future work on Eleusinian finance in the Classical period. One major result is that the First-Fruits Decree turns out to be a Periclean document. As Maureen put it, ‘With the First-fruits decree now placed in the decade of the 430s we have gained something very special: a document testifying to Athens', and Pericles', efforts to remind the Greek world that when Demeter gave Athens double gifts—the fruits of the earth and the Mysteries ...—Athens was not only reverent (theophilos) but also generous (philanthropos) in sharing these gifts with the rest of the world.’"
Maureen taught Classics at Middlebury College (1980-1982) and Pomona College (1982-1983). After taking seven years off to care for aging family members, she entered the University of Minnesota Law School, where she earned her J.D. magna cum laude, and thereafter she worked in Coopers & Lybrand’s Tax Department, rising through the ranks to become Tax Manager at the National Tax Practice.
Maureen joined the faculty at Washington and Lee University in 1998 and became a full professor at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law in 2004. Her research focused on the philosophical basis for tax policy, combining her earlier classical training with her current legal work.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Cay Johnston promoted her scholarship and its influence on tax law in his half-page article "A Taxation Policy to Make John Stuart Mill Weep," which appeared in the April 18, 2004 issue of The New York Times. Johnston wrote in part, “The idea of basing taxes on the ability to pay dates to ancient Athens, Maureen B. Cavanaugh, a professor of tax law at Washington and Lee University, wrote recently. Athens was a tyranny when it had a flat tax, she wrote, but democracy flourished once taxes were based on one's ability to pay.”
Maureen’s academic prowess, especially in epigraphy and the Greek language, and her warm, gregarious personality stood out to those who spent time with her at the American School, some of whom have shared their memories of her with us:
Ann Steiner, a fellow Regular Member at American School, and currently the Shirley Watkins Steinman Professor of Classics Emerita at Franklin & Marshall College, recalls Maureen: “She was a quiet, smart, respected member of our group. Her exceptional command of Greek and epigraphy were immediately apparent, and it was obvious that she was a star.”
Another classmate, Barry Strauss, now the Bryce and Edith M. Bowmar Professor in Humanistic Studies and the Corliss Page Dean Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Cornell University remembers: “Maureen Cavanaugh was an unforgettable presence in our group at the School in 1978-1979. She had a very sharp mind. Even as a graduate student, she displayed an expert knowledge of Greek epigraphy... But Maureen also had a warmth, a friendliness, and a smile that made it a pleasure to spend time with her. I can still hear her gentle Minnesota accent. She left us far, far too soon.”
About Maureen Cavanaugh and Christopher Plum
Maureen in Sounion, Greece, with her husband while on her fellowship to the American School in 1979.
Maureen Cavanaugh was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the youngest of four siblings. A dedicated daughter, she interrupted her academic career to assist elderly family members full time in Minnesota for seven years in the 1980s.
Maureen and Chris met while attending Swarthmore College in 1972. Christopher reflected upon “seeing her for the first time as she and her roommates walked across the quadrangle in front of our college dorm… She was a freshman; I was a sophomore. Our first real experience together was when I gave her a ride to the airport at Thanksgiving. By January we were inseparable and remained so for the next 32 years. Please remember Maureen as I do, with a smile on her face, a twinkle in her eye, and a thought in her mind that will surprise and delight us all.”
About the Loring Hall Campaign
The Campaign was launched in October 2018 to raise funds for renovating and expanding the three aging buildings that have served as the intellectual and residential heart of the American School: Loring Hall, the Annex, and McCredie House. The Loring Hall buildings remain the place where members of the School community gather for meals, tea, ouzo hour, holiday celebrations, and lectures—a source of lifelong professional and personal relationships that characterize the collegial and intellectually vibrant atmosphere of the School. This modernized setting enhances that experience and will meet the needs of the School community well into the future.
Support the Loring Hall Campaign
The goal of the Loring Hall campaign is $10.2 million, inclusive of a maintenance endowment. Thanks to generous supporters of this historic initiative, more than $8.1 million has been raised to date. The newly renovated and expanded buildings were dedicated on Saturday, June 4, 2022 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception for the School community.
To learn more about how you can support this historic initiative, please contact Nancy Savaides, Director of Stewardship and Engagement (Tel: 609-454-6810). Naming opportunities for a variety of spaces in the Loring Hall buildings are still available. Donors can choose from a wide range of gift levels to name a room or area in honor of themselves, an American School scholar, or a family member, friend, or group. Please click the links below to view the nameable spaces and options that remain: